What Parents Need to Know
Child predators… Sex rooms… Gang rape? These have been some of the terrifying reports coming from parents about one of the most popular games among children — Roblox. Surely not, this is Digital Lego, to some extent, right?
63%, more than half, of Roblox users are under the age of 16, 25% are under the age of 9, and 55% of children aged 9-12 in the USA play Roblox each week. Clearly, Roblox is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a pretty amazing game… but only if you know how to use it.
So how we do allow our children to excel and explore Roblox, but also keep them safe from the very-real dangers online? Well, first, you have to know what Roblox is and how it works.
What is Roblox
First things first — Roblox isn’t necessarily a video game. Rather it’s a platform that hosts games — over 40 million games to be exact. More significantly, all the games are created by users. It was released back in 2006 to create a space where people can come play games, build games, and connect with friends.
Like Minecraft, users create an avatar and enter an immersive multi-player world where they can explore and interact with other users. It’s become the go-to after-school hang-out spot for a lot of children and teens who join their friends in this digital world and play games together.
While Roblox is entirely free to download and play, it can be quite limiting unless you have Robux, the in-game purchased currency. By loading real money onto your account, you can use these Robux to buy accessories, clothes, and gear for your avatar, special abilities, bonus in-game content, as well as access to some user-created games.
This opportunity to spend also comes with the opportunity to make money. You can either trade your Robux or, if you create your game and make it has a Robux entrance fee, you can earn money from users playing your game. Then you can trade your Robux for real bucks.
Most popular games on Roblox at the moment:
- Adopt Me!: In a Sims-like world, you can live as an adoptive parent or an adopted child, taking care of everyday needs — additionally, the new collectable pets have made it incredibly popular
- Royale High: Experience high school as a supernatural noble where you have to balance your social life and your grades.
- Brookhaven RP: A townscape where users can play any role they like and create a life for themselves with their own house and their own car.
- MeepCity: Build and manage your own estate, basically a virtual business like a pizza place, school, or dance club, where other users can spend Robux to enjoy your estate.
- Tower of Hell: This obstacle course, or “obby” as they’re known in Roblox, is known as one of the most challenging games in Roblox where you have to make your way up a challenging tower.
But what can be Roblox’s most popular game can also be its most dangerous.
Child predators on Roblox
As unfortunate as it is — where there are children, there are also child predators. What is the ultimate playground for children on one side also has a dark underbelly where sexual predators find their prey on the other.
There have been multiple reports around the world of children being targeted by predators and with inappropriate content around the world. One such report was of a 12-year-old being sent explicit messages and threatened outside of the game. Others include children stumbling into sex rooms, getting lured and locked inside rooms, being virtually gang raped, getting contacted by strangers, and herded onto other, more dangerous, apps and sites, and even kidnapping in real life.
The problem is that Roblox is essentially an open world — and most children are sent out into this world, free to explore and lacking the skills needed to stay safe, as they would need in the real world. If anything, it’s even more important online – It can take as little as two minutes for children to be approached online by a predator.
You might be thinking — when a child gets locked in a room with a predator, can’t they just turn it off, it’s not real? And yes, they can turn it off. But with the blending of our digital and IRL identities, especially with teens and children, they struggle to separate the fact that it is happening to their avatar, not to them — they still feel the emotional trauma from these situations.
What is Roblox doing about the situation?
Well, Roblox has responded to these reports by actively trying to remove dangers for children on their platform. But despite their best efforts — you cut off one head and ten grow back. Predators are finding more and more loopholes, and even if you report these tragic events to officials, they are so hard to trace that they just disappear and move on.
That’s why the best thing we can do as parents, teachers, and protectors of this young generation is to equip them with the skills to avoid, block, and report this behavior themselves so that they know what to do if a situation like this arises.
Other dangers for children on Roblox
One of the main problems that present serious dangers for children on Roblox is the chat feature. Like most multiplayer online games, you can chat with other users — friends, friends of friends, or complete strangers, depending on your chat settings.
By allowing communication with strangers, and even friends, online, you’re essentially opening a doorway for them to enter your home, your safe space. This unlocks an entirely new space for dangers in online games:
- Exposure to inappropriate content: Despite Roblox’s chat filters, users still find ways to send explicit and inappropriate content through the chat filter, as well as behave inappropriately within the games themselves.
- Information sharing: Children can be coerced to share private and personal information with strangers which could put their safety at risk.
- Cyberbullying: Even among friends, children are faced with an overwhelming amount of cyberbullying through Roblox which infiltrates their social life IRL.
- “ODers”: Also known as “online daters,” Roblox is flooded with users who use the platform entirely as an online dating app, forming digital relationships which can get quite explicit for children to stumble upon — if children aren’t honest about their age, they can also easily find themselves in one of these relationships if they’re not careful.
- Robux: As with most things, currency is the driving force of Roblox, and children can firstly feel pressured to spend their own money to gain more Robux or be enticed to do certain things in exchange for Robux.
Roblox privacy settings and parental controls
So, with all these dangers creeping around, what controls has Roblox put in place to combat them?
- Chat and content filters: Roblox has built-on AI filters that prescreen the chat and content to ensure there isn’t any inappropriate or explicit content.
- Age restriction: While there is no official age restriction or age verification system, as a parent, you can set their age on the app where children under 13 have stricter chat filters, like blocking phone numbers that are sent in the chat.
- Friend and chat settings: You can restrict your friend list by following only those who you know and limiting who can contact you — friends, friends of friends, or strangers.
- Activity history: You can view chat histories, recent purchases or trades, friends/followers, creations, and recently play games.
- Parental PIN: Parents can set a PIN that prevents children from changing the settings parents have put in place for safety.
Are these enough to make Roblox a safe and fun place for all? Clearly not. Children are very determined, resourceful, and probably know the game a lot better than you. If they really want to, nothing is stopping them from getting around any safety restriction you put on them. So what can you really do to protect your child on Roblox?
Tips for parents to keep their children safe on Roblox
The one thing you should avoid is policing. No matter how many passwords, restrictions, or outright bans, children will always find a way through a back door. The best thing that you can do to protect your children — have an open and trusting child-parent relationship.
What’s worse than your child experiencing one of these traumatic events is them experiencing it and not telling you. Most children are afraid to tell their parents when something bad happens. They fear getting into trouble, getting punished, or worse, facing disappointment and shame. You want your child to feel as if they can trust that you will respond in the way that they need you to respond, not the way you want to.
Banning the game also doesn’t help them in the long run. It means that they never learn these essential skills they need to avoid situations like this in the future, in the real world where they can’t just turn it off and you’re not there to protect them. Rather, teaching them how to deal with these situations empowers them and equips them with everything they need to be smart, safe, and explore online, not just on Roblox.
Teach them how to:
- Block strangers
- Maintain safe privacy settings
- Report inappropriate content
- Avoid high-risk situations
- Speak up when something goes wrong
You can also see Roblox as an opportunity for your child to excel online. It’s an incredible place to develop digital skills such as coding, game-building, and business. Take Roblox and turn it into a positive and productive form of play — you never know, may you have a coding protogé on your hands.
“Roblox can be amazing. But like anything online, it also has adults wandering around exercising their voyeurism or fetish or having fun. It’s just that kids don’t fully understand this,” says Dean McCoubrey, MySociaLife founder.
While Roblox definitely presents real and harmful dangers to your children, if you set it up correctly, equip your children with the skills they need, and encourage them to explore their online talents, Roblox can be a pretty incredible place for children and teens online.
Want to find other ways your child can explore and excel online while being safe and smart? Check out what MySociaLife has to offer you, your child, and your school.
– Written by Havana Dauncey